5 Worst Super Bowl Games of All Time, Ranked
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, we’re afraid, is the ugliness of the five worst Super Bowls ever played.
When you have 55 to choose from, there are going to be a lot of good candidates. You could make a convincing case that any five of the first nine Super Bowls ever played are worthy. Even the Jets-Colts Super Bowl 3, for all its histrionics with Joe Namath’s guarantee and the mighty AFL upset over the heavily-favored NFL Colts was a really lousy football game.
We have been tasked with ranking the most-foul five, and you will probably be surprised by a couple that did not make the unkindest cut of all.
For instance, we spared the 46-10 Bears rout of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 20. Yes, a terrible game, but also a game with a memorable play – the “Refrigerator” Perry touchdown – and one of the greatest one-season teams in NFL history with iconic players and coaching staff. It had redeemable qualities.
There was really nothing redeemable about the five we chose. We did not come to praise them. Let’s bury them.
5. Super Bowl 43: Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8
There has been one other Super Bowl where the first score of the game was a safety, and that game, Super Bowl 9, was lousy, too! But this one gets the distinction of making our list for being so non-competitive from the moment the Denver center snap sailed right past Peyton Manning for a safety.
The game was great only if you love scoring oddities. The first score being a safety only scratched the surface. The Seahawks scored on offense, defense and special teams, and scored touchdowns, field goals and a safety.
But perhaps the only redeeming feature of this game was the final score. It was the only 43-8 final in NFL history.
4. Super Bowl 5: Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13
They called it the “Blunder Bowl,” and that’s a pretty good advertisement to make our little list.
This game was so badly played that not even a game-winning field goal with five seconds left in regulation could spare it from making the list. Sorry, Jim O’Brien.
The first Super Bowl ever played on Poly-Turf at Miami’s Orange Bowl, the game was a slippery, bumbling disaster. Both teams combined for 11 turnovers, including five in the fourth quarter. Amazingly, the Colts committed seven of them and still managed to win.
How bad was this game? A defensive player won the game’s MVP award, and he played on the losing team. Linebacker Chuck Howley remains the only player in Super Bowl history to win the MVP and lose the game.
Even one of the touchdowns was a fiasco of a play, with Johnny Unitas throwing a pass over the middle that was first deflected by a Colts player, then tipped again by Dallas cornerback Mel Renfro, then caught by legendary tight end John Mackey, who turned it into a 75-yard touchdown. Naturally, the extra point was blocked.
3. Super Bowl 40: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10
While Super Bowl 5 gave us nothing but turnovers and crazy miscues, this Super Bowl will be remembered for a series of bad calls and non-calls that threw the competitive balance well into Steelers’ territory.
When bad calls are what makes a game memorable, that’s probably a really bad game. The controversial calls seemed to rob the game of any flow. And while two of Pittsburgh’s touchdowns came on big plays, the game itself was a tedious affair that lacked any real drama, outside of the outrage that came from the Seahawks’ players and coaches after the game.
2. Super Bowl 24: San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10
Give the Denver Broncos credit: When they lose a Super Bowl, they really lose a Super Bowl. Three of the five biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history feature the Broncos on the losing end. The only one not to make our list was the 42-10 wipe-out by Washington in Super Bowl 23, and that’s only because of the record-setting performance by Washington quarterback Doug Williams, who threw four touchdown passes in the second quarter alone.
This game against Joe Montana’s 49ers in 1990 had no such history. Sure, there were records set, but nothing that stood out as all-time historic, except for the margin of victory, which remains the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history.
The 49ers led 27-3 at the half and 41-3 with nine minutes to go in the third quarter. If it had been a prize fight, they’d have stopped it.
Which makes what the Broncos were able to do against the heavily-favored Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 32 all the more remarkable. Elway and the Broncos had been humiliated in three Super Bowls in a span of four years, yet they did not shrink from the moment in San Diego and pulled one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. But on that night in 1990, it was torture for the Broncos and the world.
1. Super Bowl 8: Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7
Pretty much any Super Bowl that had the Minnesota Vikings in it was a terrible game. But this one stands out because, unlike other bad games, there was nothing in the storyline that could elevate it to a level of relevancy that might mitigate the sheer terrible-ness of the game itself.
This was the Dolphins’ second Super Bowl win in a row, but that had already been done by the Green Bay Packers. And, of course, this wasn’t close to the best Dolphins Super Bowl team; the 1972 Dolphins the year before had gone undefeated. There was a case of the game’s circumstance – the Dolphins’ perfect season – overtaking a pretty lousy 14-7 game in Super Bowl 7.
This Super Bowl had none of that. It did have Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese attempting seven passes the entire game. Seven. This wasn’t Mac Jones Night in windy Buffalo. This was the Super Bowl. Seven.
Larry Csonka did set the Super Bowl rushing record with 145 yards and scored two touchdowns. But that was the highlight. The Dolphins led 17-0 at the half and 24-0 midway through the third quarter. Never had a game so important been so boring. Even NFL Films, the great propagandists of the pigskin, could not save this stinker. Its highlight film was basically a 20-minute interview with Dolphins coach Don Shula about running misdirection plays. Please, someone, save us!
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference